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Statement of Human Rights Center regarding the emergency situation related miscarriages in the court proceedings

24.03.2020

 
The judge at the Tbilisi City Court did not allow the HRC monitor to attend the trial into Besik Tamliani’s case yesterday. HRC believes it is inadmissible to violate the open court principle and calls on the Court to ensure publicity of trials for the observers and other interested parties in the course of emergency situation too.
 
On March 23, the court had scheduled examination of the evidence of the defense side in the case of civil activist Besik Tamliani, who was arrested during 20-21 June 2019 events in Tbilisi. HRC monitors the ongoing proceedings in the Tbilisi City Court in the frame of the project “Public Events Monitoring.”

Before the emergency situation was announced in the country for the prevention of the spread of the COVID-19, the Court already restricted presence of monitors in the courtrooms. On March 16, the chairman of the Tbilisi City Court issued an order, in which he established some restrictions and special regulations for the entry of citizens in the building of the court. The monitors have never been restricted to enter the court building for either reasons before. They continued monitoring of the court hearings. Yesterday, it was the first instance, when due to emergency situation in the country, HRC monitor was not allowed to observe the hearing of Besik Tamliani’s case. 

After the emergency situation was announced, the judiciary system eventually shifts to remote working regime. HRC acknowledged the gravity of the current situation including the challenges faced by the judiciary system. Nevertheless, the practice of full or partial closure of the court proceedings, except concrete cases which are regulated under the law, contradicts the principle of the just state and rule of law; it undermines the right of an individual to have access to fair trial. 

Open court is one of the most important aspects of the fair court. Publicity of court proceedings is necessary to fully realize the rights of any individual. Publicity of the hearings protects the parties from secret implementation of justice without public observance. Open court is also one of the tools to maintain public trust to the court, particularly when there are alleged political motives of the state into concrete criminal cases. 

HRC believes that considering the current emergency situation, instead closing the court hearings, less restrictive mechanisms of open court shall be applied. 

In accordance to the Article 7 of the President’s Decree N1 of March 21, 2020, “In accordance to the Criminal Procedural Code of Georgia, court hearings may be conducted remotely with the use of electronic communication tools. In similar situation, none of the parties in the trial can refuse conduct of the hearings remotely.”

Holding the court hearings remotely does not mean to fully or partly close them for public. This regulation aims to save citizens from the spread of the COVID-19. At the same time, it does not exclude the possibility to conduct the hearings in accordance to the Constitution of Georgia and Criminal Procedure Code of Georgia. Open court is the only opportunity to enable the parties to answer the questions of the society and to enable the society to learn the truth about the case. 

Yesterday, the hearing into Besik Tamliani’s case was not conducted remotely because the parties physically attended the process. Only interested parties – including monitors, were not allowed to attend the trial.

In the emergency situation, it is good alternative to conduct the hearings into criminal cases remotely; however, unlimited access of the interested parties, including monitors, shall be ensured with the support of modern technical online sources (like livestreeming) on the court website or via specially created YOUTUBE channel. 

HRC calls on the common courts of Georgia, to ensure publicity of all proceedings when organizing remote hearings as required under the President’s Decree. It is particularly important to ensure publicity of hearings of the high profile cases, among them are allegedly politically motivated cases due to high public interest towards them and to respect the right of the defendant and satisfy their request to ensure openness of their trials.

Human Rights Center 

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